From the president to fellow former astronauts, people across the country are paying tribute to former space traveler and politician John Glenn.
Former astronaut Scott Altman, from Pekin, says his first encounter with Glenn wasn’t exactly planned.
“The very first time was in the locker room of the astronaut gym when I almost knocked him down as he was coming out of shower,” Altman says. “It wasn’t a good time to shake hands.”
But over time the two became friends. Altman says he became concerned about Glenn when he heard he was admitted to an Ohio hospital about a week ago. The news of his death hit him hard.
“It’s very sad to have the passing of this true American legend and hero,” Altman told 1470 & 100.3 WMBD. “John Glenn was really an inspiration to me, but more than that, when he flew with us at NASA he got to also be a friend.”
Altman, a veteran of four space shuttle missions, says he pursued his career as an astronaut in part because of Glenn.
“He had the career that I dreamed about. Flying fighters back in World War II,” Altman said. “And right afterwards doing all the things that I wanted to do.”
Altman got to know Glenn better than most. He says there are some qualities that were not reflected in all the books and articles written about Glenn.
“He just had really great sense of humor,” Altman said. “He was on the crew video for a Christmas party playing a prank of him hiding away in another space shuttle.”
Altman last spoke with Glenn at a memorial service for another famous space traveler, Neil Armstrong, in 2012. Altman and his wife sat behind Glenn in a group photo.
“He kept saying how sad it was to lose Neil,” Altman said. “And I feel just as a sad to lose John.”
Altman says that Glenn’s influence reaches beyond his field, and he is a sad loss for everyone.
“He was a pioneer. And just an all-around a great American. Someone who can be a role model in every sense of the word.”